Forestry Dept stresses caution ahead of Va burn ban

By Jola Szubielski - bio | email

Posted by Colby Rogers

CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) - It was a year to the day Tuesday since devastating forest fires broke out in Dinwiddie County and across Virginia.

With just days to go till the start of the official statewide burn ban - and with two brush fires in Chesterfield County fresh on their minds - forestry officials are urging Virginians to use extra caution.

One brush fire in Chesterfield scorched about three acres of a wooded area just off of Beach Road Tuesday. Hours later, another fire broke out on River and 2nd Branch roads.

With high winds kicking up early Wednesday morning, forestry officials are worried it could lead to more of the same.

Forestry officials say high winds and low humidity lead to the worst fires.

"This time of year what happens is the leaves are not on the trees so the sun is able to penetrate and dry everything out on the ground," said Chesterfield forester Richard Reuse. "So the forest fuel can burn that much more readily, catch on fire more easily, spread more quickly."

Wednesday morning, forestry investigators were back at the sites of the fires in Chesterfield, studying char patterns and trying to isolate a spot where the fires started.

They hope to prepare for what they say seems inevitable with these conditions and caution that Tuesday's brush fires weren't the first in the county and they certainly won't be the last.

Reuse said that with brush fires starting and spreading so quickly, residents need to be aware.

"Follow the burn restrictions, no matter what county you're in," Reuse said. "For some reason, if you have to burn something outside pick a day it's supposed to rain or after rain. Don't burn leaves on windy days, don't leave a fire unattended."

While debris burning is the No. 1 cause of brush fires in Virginia, officials say lit cigarettes or even sparks from a faulty catalytic converter can also lead to a wildfire.

The statewide burn ban goes into effect this weekend - Sunday, Feb. 15 at 4 p.m.

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